The Walt Disney Company Announces 2001 American Teacher Awards Honorees

Outstanding Teacher of the Year to be Selected at Gala Ceremony — Awards Totaling $515,000 for Teachers and Schools to be Presented — Disney’s American Teacher Awards Ceremony to be aired on Lifetime Television on Thursday, December 13 (7:00-9:00 P.M.)

BURBANK, Calif.—Walt Disney once said, “School-age youngsters are capable of absorbing and retaining a tremendous amount of learning. Given the chance, they have an amazing aptitude for knowledge. We must not deny them that chance through shortages of classrooms and inadequate educational facilities. Having spent most of my life creating material for children and observing their potential, I feel convinced that a full-time education for our youth is our best investment in the future.” To continue that legacy, The Walt Disney Company created in 1992 the American Teacher Awards program, which recognizes 35 teacher Honorees for their classroom creativity. This year, students, parents, educators and community members from across the United States nominated 111,000 teachers, representing all regions of the country.

Some of the compelling stories from this year’s nominees include:

Kathryn Yahr, who teaches 3rd-8th grades at Twin Hills School, Alaska, gets to school every day by snowmobile.

Ben Wentworth teaches high school science at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, and has created the only tactile planetarium in North America for his students.

Jan Coleman-Knight, who teaches at Thornton Junior High School in Fremont, Calif., was the digital developer of class web site Insecta Inspecta World (, for the Smithsonian Museum, National Museum of Natural History for Smithsonian BUGFEST, 1999. Insecta Inspecta World was called one of the “Coolest spots on the World Wide Web” by

Sandy George created the first Girl’s Sports program at Calipatria High School (Calif.).

Tammy King, who teaches at Mt. Ridge Junior High in Provo, Utah, developed Mathtasia, a math recital, competition and exhibition where students took math concepts and developed a performance to explain the concept.

Deborah Tackmann Developed “Arrive Alive,” a three-day peer education, anti-drinking & driving curriculum that has impacted over 50,000 students in the last ten years at North High School in Eau Claire, Wis.

The 35 honorees (see finalists below), chosen by a national committee of distinguished educators, are nominated in one of 10 teaching categories. One finalist will be selected in each category and the Outstanding Teacher of the Year will be chosen from among the 10 finalists. The 10 teaching categories include:

Elementary: Primary and Intermediate
Middle School/Junior High: The Sciences and The Humanities
High School: The Sciences and The Humanities
Kindergarten through 12th Grade: The Arts, Team Teaching, Special Education, and Wellness & Sports

All teachers and finalists will be recognized at a gala ceremony at the Disneyland Resort® in November.

The Walt Disney Company will award $25,000 to the Outstanding Teacher of the Year, and the Outstanding Teacher’s school will receive $5,000. All 35 teachers or team of teachers each will receive $10,000 and their schools receive $5,000 each. The 10 category finalists will receive an additional $5,000 each. The ceremony honoring these exceptional teachers will be televised on Lifetime Television on Thursday, December 13 (7:00-9:00 P.M.).

Disney’s American Teacher Awards is part of Disney Learning Partnership?which expands the company’s commitment to education through support of innovative teachers, schools, and families to effectively engage kids in learning. Disney Learning Partnership is a philanthropic initiative supporting innovative approaches to learning that promote student success.

“Our goal with this program is to honor some of America’s best teachers and to highlight their innovative approaches to helping kids learn,” said Laurie Lang, senior vice president and executive director, Disney Learning Partnership. “These awards recognize the value of these professionals and provide resources for them to work magic in their classrooms and schools.”

In addition to the awards ceremony and monetary contributions, honorees will participate in a unique professional development program focused on innovative approaches to teaching and learning and leadership development. The teachers and their principals will attend an institute in July 2002 at the Walt Disney World Resort® in Orlando, Fla. to learn how to share their creative teaching practices, and will also develop an action plan focused on improving professional collaboration and teacher learning in their schools during the 2002-2003 school year.

The honorees were chosen by a selection committee comprised of representatives of the following organizations: American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, The Council for American Private Education, Council of Chief State School Officers, Council for Exceptional Children, Council of Great City Schools, The Galef Institute, Harvard University’s Project Zero, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Education Association, National Middle School Association, National PTA and U.S. Department of Education. In addition, past Disney’s American Teacher Awards Honorees serve on the Selection Committee.

Disney’s American Teacher Awards for 2001


  • Paula Reckley, Madison Elementary, 2nd/3rd grade, Lombard, IL
  • Ann Short, F.J. Varieur Elementary School, 2nd grade, Pawtucket, RI
  • Judy Sink, Hardin Park, 2nd grade, Boone, NC


Michael Beranek, Western Hills Elementary, 3rd grade, West Des Moines, IA
Jason Michael Unger, C.A. Dickison Elementary School, 5th grade, Compton, CA
Kathryn Yahr, Twin Hills School, 3rd-8th grades, Twin Hills, AK

Middle School/Junior High

Tammy King, Mt. Ridge Jr. High, 7th-9th grades Math, Highland, UT
Peggy Myers, Canaan Middle School, 6th grade Life Sciences, Plain City, OH
J. Catherine Roberts, W.E. Waters Middle School, 7th grade Life Sciences, Portsmouth, VA

The Humanities
Jan Coleman-Knight, Thornton Jr. High School, 7th grade World History, Fremont, CA
Kathleen Esmiol, Eagleview Middle School, 8th grade Language Arts, Colorado Springs, CO
Jonathan Wenn, 7th/8th grades World History, Roosevelt Middle School, Glendale, CA

High School

Kenna Barger, Randolph County Vocational Technical Center, 9th-12th grades Algebra, Geometry, Elkins, WV
Karen Stiles, Central Campus, 10th-12th grades Marine Biology, Des Moines, IA
Benning Wentworth III, Colorado School for the Deaf & Blind, 7th-12th grades All Sciences, Colorado Springs, CO

The Humanities
Nora Flanagan, Lane Technical High School, 9th grade English, Chicago, IL
Donna McCreadie, Temple City High School, 12th grade Economics, Temple City, CA
Linda Sandra Squier, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, 9th-12th grades Latin, Greenbelt, MD

Kindergarten through 12th Grade

The Arts
Terri Graham, Bayonne High School, 9th-12th grades Ceramics/Sculpture, Bayonne, NJ
Margot Olsen, Roseville Area Middle School, 7th & 8th grades Orchestra, Choir, Theatre, Roseville, MN
Bonnie Pierce, Viewmont High School, 10th-12th grades Dance, Bountiful, UT

Special Education
Shannon Lea Espinoza, Crescent Core Alternative Middle School, 6th-8th grades Alternative Education, Cheney, WA
Catherine Kelly, Walnut Street School, 1st-5th grades Resource Center, Woodbury, NJ
Robert Peck, Washington State School for the Blind, Students who are Blind &Visually Impaired, Vancover, WA


Team Teaching
Loretta Evans Heigle, Nancy Kaufmann, Sara McKinley, & Molly Todd, Jones Middle School, 6th grade, Upper Arlington, OH
Maureen Ortiz & Laura Auch, Phoenix Alternative High School, English, Cupertino, CA
Victoria Newberry & Dara Lukonen, Kualapuu Elementary School,5th & 6th grades, Kualapuu, HI

Sandy George, Calipatria High School, Physical Education, Calipatria, CA
Danette Lansing, Eagle Hills Elementary, Physical Education, Eagle, ID
Deborah Lynn Tackmann, North High School, Health, Eau Claire, WI


Michelle Bergman
The Walt Disney Company

Christine Castro
The Walt Disney Company

Lindajo Loftus
KSA Communications